Corpse Party: Blood Drive is one of those titles that will undoubtedly get sold short because of its middling visuals and sometimes slow pacing. However, that would be selling short the generally excellent writing and sense of tension that permeates the atmosphere throughout.
Corpse Party, like so many horror movies, has developed quite a cult following over the years. This is a series that I often wondered if it would be localized here in the US, and over time the installments have been. I thoroughly enjoyed Corpse Party: Book of Shadows and have been looking forward to Blood Drive ever since. The music, the characters and the dialog work to create a series of titles that I would describe more as creepy than outright scary.
The events of Blood Drive start a couple of months after the last game. Characters are trying to move on, survivors of a horrible fate as they and they alone seem to understand who and what was lost. Or are they? Some new figures get introduced that seem to know far more than they should, and the mystery begins to ratchet up rather quickly.
The corpse party titles are of somewhat two different minds. On the one hand, there is a lot of narrative – so much so that they can feel somewhat akin to visual novels at times. Thankfully the localization is quite good and the writing and visuals that accompany the plot are suitably excellent. The rest of your time is spent in a somewhat top-down 3D view as your characters try to navigate dangerous halls filled with traps and cranky spirits to be avoided while managing through darkness with a light and limited batteries. Not the most original of concepts, but it works well. Encounter a dangerous spirit and you either have to spend a talisman or take off running – which comes with a pair of drawbacks. First running burns through stamina, which can leave you vulnerable if it runs out. Additionally – you have the other aforementioned traps to worry about dashing headlong into. This leads to a lot of trial and error replay, which can make progress feel very start and stop.
Visually this title is a step forward from its predecessors, which had an old RPG feel to them that would have felt right at home on the Sega Genesis or SNES. Characters are larger, almost bubbly and cute, though the lighting and environmental improvements help to serve the creepiness factor nicely. Still, the entire design at times feels just a bit ‘too cute’ for the horrors that take place, and the engine itself is not optimized as there are many instances where things begin to slow down, despite the somewhat simple graphics on display. Also? I could have done without the numerous lengthy load times. Character models are not edited as things happen to them. Indeed, they should be scarred at times, but still walk around with both eyes and a smile on their faces, despite the horrors they have seen or physically gone through. That feels like a cheap bit of corner cutting to save time and money, but it absolutely should have been addressed by the development team.
I really don’t want to delve into story specifics, because the narrative twists are turns are really the primary appeal here. There’s certainly gameplay to be had, but not as much as some games, and it serves as a vehicle to deliver more story – not necessarily as a primary gameplay hook in and of itself. Wandering around is tense because bad things can (and will) happen along the way, but the story itself is what I came for. It was convoluted at times and just like a typical horror movie, there were certainly times when I questioned the judgement of some of the characters. That being said, I was invested in the characters and found the tale to be an interesting one, if occasionally murky elements. It is also safe to say that this is a title best played by those who have ventured into the prior PSP titles. It is not necessary in and of itself, as the plentiful exposition does an excellent job of setting the stage, but there were many moments in the game that I would not have fully appreciated had I not experienced those two previous titles.
While the visuals are an improvement but still a mixed bag, the sound design is still outstanding. Sound effects are subtle and creepy, and while they are not leveraged to quite the same extent as some modern horror 3D games on PC and consoles, the design is still smartly managed. Also? That soundtrack. Gloriously moody, dark and atmospheric. I could write a compelling horror novel just listening to this for hours.
For me however, Corpse Party: Blood Drive is all about the survivors of the earlier games. They came away from Heavenly Host Academy damaged shells of pain and remorse, and watching them try to take matters back into their own hands and make matters right was compelling for me. The returning characters were ones I was already invested in, and the newer introductions grew on my steadily as they were explored by the story. I found this to be a satisfying conclusion to the saga. It may not bring new fans into the series, but it should suitably satisfy returning ones despite its flaws.
Article by Nick